I've had this strange feeling watching the McCain campaign lately, some kind of deja vu. Then it occurred to me that the GOP's behavior resembles that of stock market and real estate investors -- right before they crashed.
Let's look at what creates a bubble. Things go exceedingly well for the people involved. They make decisions, everything works great; they feel like geniuses!
Remember, it was only about 8 years ago that internet companies were starting up with no intention of ever figuring out how to sell anything! It was all about "eyeballs," and the company that could attract the most had a really good chance of getting bought by somebody for obscene sums of money. Often that buyer would tweak a few things and then sell the company to a bigger company for more obscene sums of money. There was always the belief that the big, life-changing money event was just around the corner, and sometimes it was. Everybody in San Jose, Austin, Portland, Raleigh or a handful of other cities knew somebody who didn't have to work any more because they had thought up an idea, built a website, and sold it.
The real estate bubble began the same way. As the economy started to tank in 2000 and into 2001, the Fed began (too late, in many people's opinions) to lower interest rates. Remember the "soft landing" that Greenspan was going for? Not so much, right? Well, the lowering of interest rates made buying a home a little easier. It also made getting a cash-out refinance on your home easier. Many people took cash out of their home and bought more properties for investment. Well, it turns out it wasn't really an investment, it was speculation. Investment is when you do some homework and make a purchase with a long-term time frame in mind. Speculation is when you fly to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, and while your buddies are playing a round of golf you go out with a Realtor and buy four spec houses with no money down. By the time the homes are finished they've increased in value 50% or more, and you sell them to somebody who didn't get in as early as you. You roll that money into more houses, because after all, you're a flippin' genius.
So how does the GOP Arrogance bubble work? It's much the same. Things go well, and pretty soon they believe that they can put anything over on the American People.
One example is the rise of George W Bush, who, along with Karl Rove, used a pretty strained relationship with the truth to make a presidential bid. He had beaten the very popular Anne Richards for governor in Texas, benefiting from a smear attack on Richards that she was a lesbian. Bush's presidential aspirations had another formidable opponent in their way, a senator from Arizona whose "Straight Talk Express" connected with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the campaign swung to South Carolina with Bush trailing badly. Suddenly there was a telephone "push poll" which asked voters if they would less likely to vote for McCain if they knew that he had fathered an illegitimate black child. McCain was traveling with his adopted daughter from Bangladesh, and the picture in voters heads was easy to connect. Bush won in South Carolina, and McCain was finished.
The election in 2000 became a narrative of elite, over-intelligent Al Gore, portrayed by the Bush campaign (and aided in this by the media) as a liar, against the "Compassionate Conservative" Bush, a "regular guy" despite his Yale and Harvard degrees. By the time the dust settled in this election, several weeks after the polls closed, the truth was impossible to discern except for one thing: George Bush and the GOP were in the White House, which is all that mattered.
Bush, who had run on a campaign of being "a uniter, not a divider," was lost in his first year, much like Clinton was. The Enron scandal broke, and the long family ties between the Bushes and Enron founder Ken Lay were putting the president in an uncomfortable situation. Bush's poll numbers were indicative of a man barely elected: 50% positive, 49% negative.
On September 11th, planes flew into buildings, and suddenly, the Bush presidency had a blank check of political capital. The world was sympathetic toward the US, and just about everyone in the country was putting flag stickers all over everywhere. He could get whatever he wanted, and to challenge his views was considered unpatriotic.
The Administration kicked into high gear. There was a war, then another war even though the first war wasn't won yet. There were changes to EPA, HUD, FDA, FEMA, and most other government agencies, as the cronies Bush had appointed at the beginning of his tenure started to make their mark in their new posts.
To get back to our bubble analogy, things started to go really well. A majority in the House and Senate made it very easy for Bush to get legislation he wanted, and he wanted a lot! It was politically very dangerous to be on the opposite side of the President on anything, national security, or not, so the Democrats put their own futures ahead of the country's, and capitulated regularly.
It got so the Bush Administration, and the GOP in general, started to think they could do no wrong. They started to get careless, failing to even cover their tracks when they took money from lobbyists, or misused power in some way, or told a big fat lie, like about Iraq's ties to 9-11. The bubble started to build.
Here are a few things that show pretty convincingly that the Republicans were victims of "irrational exuberance," drunk with their own power:
1)They planted a bunch of retired generals, most of whom were still active in the defense contracting industry, in newsrooms of every cable and over-the-air TV outlet, and had regular meetings with them to tell them what to say in their reports
2)They fired nine United States Attorneys, giving no reason except that they were entitled to do that. A very casual look at the attorneys in question revealed that they happened to be people who had prosecuted Republicans, or failed to prosecute Democrats. The Justice Department also politicized the hiring process, hiring almost exclusively republicans for supposedly non-political posts
3)An Interior department investigation of itself found that agency employees supposed to be overseeing the oil and gas industry were actually having sex with and receiving gifts from employees of companies in that industry.
4)Scooter Libby, the fall guy for the Administration's criminal revealing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, is given a full pardon by President Bush, who said, "He's suffered enough."
5)I'm just going to point to http://rinf.com/alt-news/politics/list-of-bush-administration-scandals/2148/ so you can see about 100 other examples of Administration officials forced to resign or actually serve jail sentences due to impropriety or outright criminal activity
The latest example of GOP Arrogance, and I believe (or I should say, I hope) the pin that will prick the bubble once and for all, has been the John McCain campaign for President. As the campaign has rolled along, the "Straight Talk Express" started to sound like the "Double Talk Express," and now is the "No Talk, or at least No Questions Answered Express."
The lies have gotten bigger and bolder as the weeks wear on: Obama's gonna raise everyone's taxes, Obama's gonna take away everyone's guns, Obama's gonna give away the store to Iran. Again, I can't do it any better than this story in the New Republic this week. http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=71756e51-a09c-4b7d-b270-c6327191b341
In the midst of this pattern of truth-stretching, McCain selects Sarah Palin as his running mate. She comes with a full carousel of her own baggage having to do with "truthiness," and the campaign starts lying for her, too. "Thanks, but no thanks" is the most famous one, but there were several lines about Obama in her stump speech that had been debunked long ago, and she dutifully gave that speech several times a day, unconcerned that she was lying.
As I said, I am hopeful that this is the end of it. The media is starting to push back, and while the campaign's first reaction is to push back harder (Rick Davis didn't have anything to do with Fannie Mae!!!), those protestations are not as intimidating as they were before.
I think even McCain's "I can't possibly run for President when there is such a crisis going on" gambit would have been received much more positively just a couple of weeks ago than it was today. Tossed onto the pile of half-truths, misconceptions, manufactured outrage and outright lies that have come to characterize the campaign, today's announcement is very difficult to take at face value. Clearly, the McCain campaign and the GOP have so little respect for the American people that they think they can fool all the people all the time.
There came a time when that internet stock that had been so hot could not find a buyer, and when that spec home in Las Vegas was worth 50% less by the time it was finished rather than 50% more. I hope this is that moment for America, when the public says, "Enough! Character is not a lifetime pass because of what happened to you 40 years ago, it's what you do every day, when the cameras are on you or not, and it matters to me!"
It's not "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more!" but I hope it catches on.